nkraus reacted to Y2CJ41 for a article, #WrestlingWednesday: Mullets and Mustaches, Oh My!
By JEREMY HINES
The Man. The Myth. The Mullet. The Mustache.
Outside of the famous Willie and Red’s smorgasbord (best fried chicken and prime rib in the area), senior wrestler Jake Combs is the biggest attraction in Hagerstown.
He’s popular because he’s a phenomenal three-sport athlete, because he has a mullet and mustache that would make Billy Ray Cyrus jealous and because he has become the first Tiger wrestler since 2003 to advance to the state finals.
“I can’t put it into words, honestly, what going to state means to me,” Combs said. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming about ever since I lost here last year. It just feels amazing.”
Combs had a huge contention of fans Saturday at the New Castle semistate. When he won his ticket round matchup against Frankfort senior Ezekial VanDeventer, it seemed as if the whole gym erupted in applause.
“Wrestling is unlike any sport in many ways but the family aspect that comes with it is truly humbling,” Hagerstown coach Anton Payne said. “I feel the entire TEC (Tri Eastern Conference), our sectional and regional teams were pulling for Jake today. The crowd from Hagerstown was huge but when Jake won there were hundreds, if not thousands of people screaming and jumping out of their seats.”
Combs doesn’t have the typical wrestling story of athletes that are going to the state finals. He didn’t wrestle as a young kid. He didn’t wrestle in middle school. He didn’t even wrestle as a freshman or sophomore, despite coach Payne practically begging him every year to give it a try.
Payne finally wore Combs down before his junior season.
“Jake started wrestling for the first time 15 short months ago,” Payne said. “I tried my best to get this young man out since junior high, but it wasn’t until his junior year, in November that he said he would try a practice to see if he likes it.”
Combs fell in love with wrestling. Early on it was evident that he was strong as an ox, but he didn’t have any technique to go along with that raw strength. As the season progressed, Combs continued to learn the sport and by tournament time, he was good enough to advance to semistate. That success created a hunger.
Combs started working as hard as he could to learn more about wrestling. He went to open gyms in the summer. He traveled to Carmel and other places looking to soak in as much knowledge as possible. It paid off.
“I told Jake that we would have to work hard,” Payne said. “I told him we would have to push through adversity. We would have to wrestle through pains. We would have to stay on the mat as much as possible in the off season. We would have to work on our explosiveness. We would have to gain more mat confidence and we would have to be 100 percent committed. Jake’s response was ‘let’s do it.’ “
This season Combs is 38-5 and was perhaps the surprise of the 182-pound class in the New Castle semistate. He knocked off Greenfield’s Scott Stanley by fall in the first period to advance to the ticket round. In the ticket round he dominated VanDeventer, pinning him 1:53.
But Combs wasn’t done yet. In the next round he had the task of taking on No. 14-ranked J.D. Farrell of Fishers. Combs won that match 3-1 to advance to the semistate championship.
Combs lost in the finals to Elwood’s No. 12-ranked Jalen Morgan 5-0.
To Combs, wrestling is fun. That’s part of the reason he grew his world-class mullet and mustache – which some accredit to his quick rise to success in the sport. Combs isn’t sure which one gives him these special powers, though.
“You know, I’m thinking it’s the mullet,” Combs said. “It’s newer. I’ve had the mustache for a while. But, you know what, it has matured a lot, so maybe it’s that, too. It might be both.”
In Hagerstown they have made fan support T-shirts for Combs. The shirts just have an outline of a mullet and a mustache. Combs loves them.
“Wrestling is such a serious sport and I’m just trying to bring a little flavor to it.”
Friday Combs will get to showcase that flavor at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse in front of the state’s most die-hard wrestling fans. He will take on Oak Hill’s No. 16-ranked Bradley Rosman in the first round.
“Jake has accomplished what he said he would do last year after semistate,” Payne said. “But we are not satisfied yet.”
nkraus reacted to Y2CJ41 for a article, #MondayMatness: Confidence carries NorthWood’s Lone to mat success
By STEVE KRAH
Jake Lone has developed an edge in his junior season as a NorthWood High School wrestler.
Lone was second at the Elkhart Sectional, third at the Goshen Regional and a qualifier for the Fort Wayne Semistate as a 160-pound freshman. As a 170-pounder junior, Lone won sectional and regional titles, placed second at semistate and then eighth at the IHSAA State Finals. As a 182-pound junior, he is 30-3 after winning another sectional title. The 2019 Goshen Regional is Feb. 2.
Lone, who first competed in Indiana State Wrestling Association events at age 4, is gaining confidence.
“As the season has progressed, I think I’ve developed a little bit of an attitude out on the mat,” says Lone. “There’s a little more aggression.”
Shoulder surgery after the 2018 State Finals meant that Lone was away from competition for the spring and summer.
He was only cleared to play football for NorthWood during the week of the season opener. Switched from linebacker to defensive end, he had a sensational season while helping the 2018 Panthers aka “Black Crunch” go 11-1 under head coach Nate Andrews.
Lone was selected for Class 4A honorable mention all-state honors by the Associated Press.
Then it was back to the mat.
“I think I’ve gotten tremendously better,” says Lone of his progress since the beginning of the 2018-19 wrestling season. “I’ve been getting back in the swing of things after surgery last spring, getting my conditioning up and knocking all the rust off.”
“Having Coach Andrews is the room to push me has been great.” Andrews, who won a 171-pound IHSAA state title as a NorthWood senior in 1996, took over as wrestling head coach this winter.
He has watched Lone get better and better.
“It certainly opens up his offense when he’s lighter on his feet and when his motion is vertical and horizontal at the same time with 1-2 and 3-4 combinations,” says Andrews. “When he opens that up and puts pressure on people, he can be dangerous.
“A lot of he team aspects and leadership qualities that he learns in football he brings to the wrestling mat.”
Lone has fed off Andrews’ enthusiasm and intensity.
“What I get from him is always pushing the pace, staying aggressive, never stop,” says Lone. “It’s that never-quit attitude.”
Lone knows that there are differences and similarities in his two sports. “Football shape is short bursts,” says Lone. “Wrestling shape you have to go the full six minutes without stopping.”
While he played some wide receiver or tight end on offense, Lone really enjoyed playing on the other wide of the ball.
The hand and body fighting and one-on-one battles that a defensive linemen encounters translate to the wrestling circle.
“I love defense,” says Lone. “I was able to use by wrestling technique for tackling.”
Andrews, who counts Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer Dennis Lewis plus Jim Matz and Elisio Roa as assistants, says beefing up the NorthWood schedule was helpful for Lone. “He was able to see a little tougher competition,” says Andrews. The Panthers took on LaPorte, Merrillville and Knox at the LaPorte Super Duals, Churubusco, Eastside, Garrett and Jay County at the Fort Wayne Carroll Super Duals. NorthWood also faced Wawasee, Goshen and Jimtown in duals at home and took part in the 32-team Al Smith Classic at Mishawaka.
Inclement weather Jan. 19 caused cancellation of the Northern Lakes Conference varsity and junior varsity tournaments.
“For our program and where we are now, we were devastated,” says Andrews. “A week ago we were really in good shape to do our best and climb another rung on the ladder as we try to build our program.” That meet was to be the last for JV grapplers.
“The kids who come out and go through this grinder of a season, they didn’t get rewarded,” says Andrews. “They didn’t get to play in their Super Bowl. It’s very, very unfortunate.”
Andrews said the focus turns to individuals still alive in the state tournament series, but he is still trying to “rally the troops” for those who saw their season come to an end.
The Panthers are young with just two seniors on the squad.
“I’m looking forward to the future,” says Andrews.
Jake has been in wrestling practice rooms since age 3. His father, Rod Lone, was head coach at NorthWood for seven seasons. After two years as a volunteer assistant at Jimtown, he has returned to NorthWood as head middle school coach. He is also a volunteer with the high school and helps the NorthWood Wrestling Club.
A former wrestler at Clinton Prairie High School and then for Tom Jarman at Manchester College (now Manchester University), Rod Lone has witnessed a rise in his eldest son’s confidence level.
“With that confidence he’s gotten more aggressive and that’s shown in his matches,” says Rod Lone. “He’s never been that fast-twitch, go-get-em kind of kid. This year, he’s finally starting to get there.”
“He’s trying to control the match instead of letting the match come to him.” Says Andrews, “He should be a pretty confident kid the way it is. He’s been on the mat a long time. He had a good sophomore campaign.”
Getting down to Indianapolis and competing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse has helped fuel the self-assurance.
“After going to State last year and having all that experience, I feel I know what it’s like,” says Jake Lone.
Rod and Denise Lone’s second son — eighth grader Kaden — just won an ISWA Middle School State title at 132 pounds. He has a chance to be the first NorthWood wrestler to go unbeaten through their middle school career (sixth, seventh and eighth grade) with three Big 11 Conference championships.
Jake and Kaden work out together and use the wrestling room in the family basement.
“We go down there and roll around a lot,” says Jake Lone. “It’s fun.”
Given the size differential, Kaden has to use his quickness against his big brother.
“He can’t muscle things and just rely on strength,” says Jake Lone.
“That’s been great bond at home,” says Rod Lone. “They push each other in a very positive way.”
nkraus reacted to Y2CJ41 for a article, #MondayMatness: South Bend Washington’s Forrest does not let missing limb slow him down
By STEVE KRAH
As South Bend Washington senior Ethan Forrest pinned his fourth opponent of the day and had his hand raised in victory, a roar rose up at Lake Central High School’s Harvest Classic.
“I could see my team jumping up and down,” says Forrest. “The whole place was insane.
“It was awesome.”
It was the most noise first-year Panthers head Cory Givens had heard at a high school wrestling tournament this side of the IHSAA State Finals.
“It was very exciting,” says Givens. “It was mind-blowing how loud it was. It was crazy.”
Forrest won the title at 182 pounds and was voted by coaches as the meet’s outstanding wrestler. A few years later, he went 4-1 at Washington’s Blood, Sweat & Tears Super Dual.
Putting in the sweat that it takes to excel in the circle and in life is what Forrest does.
Born without most of his left leg, Forrest just keeps pushing.
“He’s just like every other kid,” says Givens. “You wouldn’t know there’s anything different about him.”
Forrest does not see having one full leg as a setback.
“That’s all I know,” says Forrest, who put all he had into playing linebacker and defensive end on the football team, where Givens is the
defensive coordinator. “It’s a lot of foot work, reading plays and a lot of hand-eye coordination.”
Forrest also enjoys golf and plans to go out for track in the spring and run with the help of a blade prosthetic. He spends half of the school days building a house in Construction Trades II. He is a dairy clerk at the Martin’s Super Market on Mayflower Road in South Bend. Since he entered high school, his dream has been to pursue a career as an electrician.
Givens saw in Forrest someone to help guide the Panthers on the mat.
“Ethan’s a great kid,” says Givens. “He’s very athletic-looking and very intelligent. I selected him as a captain for how hard he works at practice and pushes everybody else. A captain to me is more than just a star on your jacket or a senior. It’s someone who I think will be a good leader — on and off the mat.
“I see those qualities in Ethan.”
Forrest has taken Givens’ advice to heart.
“You play like you practice,” says Forrest. “Practicing hard is going to get you where you want to go. Stay determined and focused on your goals.”
Forrest, a tri-captain with senior Dion Hall (152) and junior Todd Hardy (126/132), defines his leadership role.
“It’s keeping good team chemistry and making sure practice runs smoothly,” says Forrest. “I want to be an example for the rest of the team.”
Rules allow for him to use his prosthetic in competition if he weighs in with it. He chooses not to use it in meets, but he will wear it in practice when necessary.
“I put it on for my partner so he can get good looks, too,” says Forrest.
“That goes back to how he is a leader and his unselfishness,” says Givens.
Junior Anthony Frydrych (195) is Forrest’s primary workout partner.
“That extra weight and muscle makes me work a little bit harder,” says Forrest.
He stands 6-foot-1, but Forrest is about four feet off the ground in his wrestling stance.
“Because of my leg I can usually get a lot lower on my opponents,” says Forrest. “And there’s less for them to grab.”
Givens explains Forrest’s strengths, which includes upper-body power and a solid Fireman’s Carry.
“Ethan is very good at countering attacks,” says Givens. “He’s going to be a couple of feet lower than everybody else."
“Everybody seems to attack him differently. People aren’t sure how to go at him."
“He has a really good low center of gravity. He doesn’t have to hit that level change. He’s already at his level change. It’s a lot of watching (opponents) making mistakes.”
Ethan Edward Forrest II is the son of Ethan Forrest Sr. and April Hall. His father is a policeman. His sister is Emily Forrest, played volleyball at Washington and is now a sophomore at Indiana University South Bend. He has two younger brothers. Hockey player Austin Hanson is a freshman at South Bend John Adams High School. Phillip Northern is a seventh grader at LaSalle Academy in South Bend. His sport of choice is baseball.
Eric’s mother also works at the Mayflower Martin’s as does sister Emily and aunt Missy Olmstead. Grandmother Susan Hall and uncle Rich Holland are also employed by the company.
Emily Forrest is a former Washington wrestling manager and still attends matches to cheer and take photos along with Ethan’s mother.
Ethan came to wrestling as a Washington freshman. He was at 138 pounds that first year then put on size and muscle in the off-season working out with his father and uncle — bodybuilder and trainer Eric Forrest — and bumped up to 170 for his sophomore and junior seasons.
Givens is a 1999 graduate of John Glenn High School. He has long appreciated wrestling and renewed his love for the sport when his son was old enough to compete. Harryson Givens, 11, has been coached by his father since he was 5. Daughter Alora (8) is a constant at practices and meets.
Cory says wife Anne has become a wrestling convert. She didn’t like the sport at first, but can’t get enough of it now.
Glenn head wrestling coach Andy King convinced best friend Givens to coach at the junior high level.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at without him,” says Givens of King.
A football coach for nearly 20 years with stops at Glenn, South Bend Clay and Washington, Givens was convinced to apply for the head wrestling coaching position when it came open at Washington.
“I’m not the most skill or knowledgeable guy in this sport,” says Givens, who counts Trey Newhouse and Jason “Gunny” Holechek as assistants. “But there’s a desire to do good things with these kids. We’re going to tackle this thing together.”
Washington has a smallish squad and placed 10th at the Harvest Classic while forfeiting six weight classes.
“To do that, it means we’re pinning guys,” says Givens.
The first thing Givens did when his hire was made official was contact Isaiah McWilliams, who was a three-time state placer for Washington (fourth in 2016, second in 2017 and second in 2018) and now a freshman on the Wabash College wrestling team.
“I can’t say enough good things about that kid,” says Givens of McWilliams, who came came to run practice during Thanksgiving break. “These kids don’t understand how important he is to the school and to the wrestling program.
“As an outsider, it’s mind-blowing how many spectacular athletes have walked through these halls.”
Ethan Forrest is working hard to make his mark on Washington mat history.
nkraus reacted to Y2CJ41 for a article, #MondayMatness: O’Neill returns to Wabash, helps Apaches thrive
By STEVE KRAH
The second time around has been extra sweet for Jake O’Neill and the Wabash High School wrestling program.
O’Neil spent six seasons as Apaches head coach then four as an assistant at his alma mater — Ben Davis in Indianapolis — and is now in his second six as head coach at Wabash.
With the help of several folks, O’Neill and the Apaches have enjoyed a resurgence since he was drawn back to the northern part of Indiana.
“I like where this little school’s going,” says O’Neill. “I’m excited about it.”
“I love this community.”
Wabash has a population of about 10,000 and around 400 attend the high school.
This season, the Apaches will participate in the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals for the first time. Wabash will be in Class 1A for the Jan. 5 meet in Fort Wayne.
The Apaches’ varsity schedule also includes the Wabash County Invitational, Western Invitational, Whitko Invitational and duals with Maconaquah, Rochester, Lewis Cass, Eastbrook, Peru and Western.
“When you have rivalries and communities meet up it only only helps the sport grow,” says O’Neill. “We had a nice gym going against Maconaquah. It was a fun atmosphere.”
There are 27 wrestlers on the Wabash team.
“We have a really big sophomore group,” says O’Neill. “Quantity helps. Quality is what we’re looking for.”
In the mix are freshman Jared Brooks and sophomore R.J. Steg at 106 and 113, sophomore Ethan Higgins at 120, junior Braden Brooks at 126, junior Jaxon Barnett at 132, sophomore Anthony Long at 138, freshman Brayden Sickafus at 152, junior Traydon Goodwin at 152, sophomore Grant Carandante at 160, sophomore Justin Heckman and sophomore Bryson
Zapata at 170, senior Blake Wiser at 182, senior Luke Voirol at 195, sophomore Grant Warmuth at 220 and senior Justin Samons and junior Blake Price at 285.
Higgins and Braden Books competed in the off-season at the Freestyle and Greco-Roman Nationals in Fargo, N.D.
“They got to see guys who will be on the (IHSAA State Finals) podium at the end of the year,” says O’Neill. “Training with them all summer was definitely good for them.”
Carandante is O’Neill’s stepson. His other two children are freshman wrestler Kiersten O’Neill and sophomore basketball player Keegan O’Neill.
Upon his return to Wabash, O’Neill established the Apache Wrestling Club. It now has about 30 grapplers in grades K-6.
There are also about 20 sixth, seventh and eighth graders in the junior high program.
A wall was knocked down in the weight room to double the size of the Wabash wrestling room.
“We’re changing the culture here with the sport,” says O’Neill, who notes that the Apaches scored four points and were down to six wrestlers the season before his return. “The community is starting to see the hard work these young men and women are putting in.
“We want to continue to get kids up on that podium at Bankers Life and get kids up on our little wall of fame at school. We’ve got to aim big. That’s how I want my wrestlers thinking.”
Ross Haughn and Jimmy Olinger are coaching the elementary wrestlers and are part of a high school coaching staff which also includes Tyler Niccum, Jeremy Haupert and Isaac Ray. Ray wrestled at Hamilton Heights High School and at Manchester University in North Manchester, Ind., about 15 miles from Wabash.
“I have a solid relationship with Coach (Kevin) Lake (at Manchester U.),” says O’Neill. “I use my resources wisely with that.”
Chad Ulmer, who wrestled at Triton High School and Manchester U., has departed Wabash for Hendricks County, where he will serve as a probation officer and likely help coach wrestling at one of the area schools.
At Ben Davis, where O’Neill had graduated in 1995, he joined with then-Giants head coach Aaron Moss to have plenty of mat coaching success.
“We produced some pretty good wrestlers together,” says O’Neill.
O’Neill was dating a Wabash girl — Aimee — and decided to look for a job that would bring him back north. He took an interview at nearby Manchester High School.
By then, principal Jason Callahan had become superintendent of Wabash City Schools.
“(Callahan) made it happen,” says O’Neill of the former Daleville High School wrestling coach. “A job created (at Wabash) within a couple of weeks."
“He believed in me a bunch.”
Jake and Aimee O’Neill have been married for five years.
In his first tenure in town, O’Neill formed some key relationships like those with Peru coach Andy Hobbs and Northfield coach Bill Campbell (now retired).
“They put their arms around me and helped me,” says O’Neill. “I’m proud to call them mentors and friends.”
He’s also grateful to Pat Culp for her role in running tournaments at all levels around Indiana.
“She’s a blessing for everybody,” says O’Neill, who is an Indiana State Wrestling Association director for Cadets. “She encouraged us to host tournaments. She played a big rule in helping us grow this program.”
O’Neill admits that during his first tenure he was looking to go elsewhere. This time, he’s in it for the long haul.
“My first year back at Wabash, I started approaching it looking at the big picture and setting long-term goals with the program,” says O’Neill.
About that time, O’Neill discovered a move-in from North Carolina in his eighth grade physical education class.
Noah Cressell qualified for the IHSAA State Finals twice and placed third at 182 pounds in 2018 — Wabash’s first state placer since heavyweight Tim LaMar won a state title in 1999.
“That kid did a lot with helping this program grow,” says O’Neill of Cressell. “It was not just his wrestling, but his personality. He was a humble kid and everybody loved him. He was the poster boy for our program.”
Cressell is now on the team at North Dakota State University.
And the Wabash Apaches are back on the state wrestling map.